Disclaimer: Let me preface this by admitting that I am not a lover of historic fiction (quite the opposite) nor of violence on screen (least of all graphically depicted). Also, I dismiss most any work because of its depiction of rape, since those depictions can be problematic and are not usually very nuanced. After reading Naomi Wolf's "Vagina" I am even more aware of how problematic the usual depiction is. I am a lover of science fiction, and if I read romance, it is usually accompanied by some sort of lizard (you know who I mean, this lizard makes everything better). I do have a thing for men in skirts though, as long as those are properly fitted and not too long. But I will take a kilt if that's the only thing on offer.
On to the "reviewing": we should start this by reading this article that convinced me I should watch Outlander. And oh, how this article hits the nail right on its head! You should also read this Salon article, because it is even better than that HuffPost one and it references an amazing article I had to read for my first term at uni. Also, penises. And thank you Mr. Dinklage and Mr. Harington for your gracious offer! I hope they take you up on it, then there might still be a chance that I'll start watching Game of Thrones.
Before this turns into me describing the physical attributes of the male lead of Outlander (fuck Men's Health, where can I get a Heughan of my own?), I should just point out that watching the series was eye-opening. It was also, as a former boyfriend (one of my favourites actually) once whispered to me "horror for vegans" when a tiny lamb was taken to be prepared for stew in the otherwise excellent movie "The American" (Clooney with very little clothes, the brilliant Violante Placido who is such a good and beautiful actor I nearly didn't look at Clooney, Dutch director Anton Corbijn, go watch it). In Outlander it was a boar-hunt and there was boar-revenge, but this only increased the level of horror. There are lots of things that are perhaps a bit of an acquired taste for one usually watching many races of people (from aforementioned lizards to my beloved Vulcans) being supremely evolved space-faring vegans. But as long as I get a kilt on Jamie that has on occasion been draped very enticingly over his all too perfectly sculpted legs, well, then I am willing to forgive almost anything. I might even be willing to forgive the series its complete and utter whiteness. I guess that is just the deal in the Scottish highlands (though if we are being this historically accurate, then I want shockingly hairy women and men) in the 18th century. But I look forward to a series with the same consideration for its female viewers that is not so uniformly white in its casting choices. What I am basically saying is: more Srgt. Fidel Best (this is a personal request, I would not be opposed to a towel as a Caribbean alternative to the kilt) and more Srgt. Camille Bordey looking at the awkward tall skinny British dude (this is a more general equal-rights-for-all demand).
Why is Outlander so important? Because it offers a new perspective on things. Why do I often feel, when watching it, as if I should look away, or am so overexcited that I make an embarrassing squealing noise? Well, I have no defense for Kirk-or-above-level-gorgeous-óverload in a setting where I don't have to force the gaze my way (as I have to with Kirk). When everything is simply displayed with someone of my gender and sexual orientation in mind, I am both captivated, obsessively excited and confused because it is such a new and unusual experience. The Salon-article was right, I am a scavenger used to taking images and framing them differently in my mind for my own nefarious purposes of sexual excitement. But with this I don't have to.
I had not realized that for (most straight) men, all media feels like watching Daniel Day-Lewis lick Gordon Warnecke. All of it, all time, for no reason at all. I have to search for these tiny snippets of excitement, or think really hard to objectify Martin Sheen in Apocalypse Now (easier said than done, but doable). Or I am forced to find solace in terrible movies like Underworld: Rise of the Lycans to see a more easily objectifiable Michael Sheen (no relation, but begging for objectification). It's not even that I'm saying that you men should be objectified, trust me, I know how it feels, I would not wish it on anybody. It's just that sometimes, every once in a very little while, I'd like to be able to look at a man simply because he is exciting, aesthetically pleasing and mine for the visual taking, because of his body and the depiction thereof, and not because I should be impressed by how much of a well-thought-out boob-gazing protagonist and deep-thinking intelligent character he is! Knowing that there are no underpants underneath the kilt, that's all I ask for (to quote one of the English in Outlander: "The question of the kilt shall remain an enigma!"). I have read that there is still a wedding-night episode in store for me. To be honest, I have trouble focusing on anything else.
Ps. Hockey was once a brutal game more scary than mixed martial art is today! Haaaahahaha.
November 22nd, 2014
I wrote my final assignment for the brilliant course Audience & Spectatorship on The Wall (just as I did my Theatre Design graduation on the topic), but this time it was on the 1990's Live in Berlin version. It was a breath of fresh air after having to design a thing I was, in the end, not quite satisfied with. Not because I was unhappy with my work, but because there were a few problematic flaws with my plan and the way I looked at the original piece. In this assignment I remedied that. Besides the word count being way over the limit (yet not enough to connect the dots in the way I wanted to), my article did finally conclude that in the translation of the original concept album to performance, something was lost. But because of the transformative, almost ritual quality it gained by being performed in Berlin on top of an SS bunker in no man's land only shortly after the fall of the Berlin wall, it gained a meaning it never before or since had in live performance. I argued that the piece was, if not sight-specific, then something very close to it. There was also a lot of discussion of the visual elements of the piece (masks, wall, lighting, Hitler-esque satire) and I really enjoyed writing it, even if I wished I'd had even more time and definitely more words to spend on it. In the end I could not add my final note. So I have added my final note here for you to read because I enjoyed writing it so much. Imagine a 4000 word piece on the mechanics of audience perception and framing arguing the site-specificity of The Wall prefacing this final extra note.
Ps. I love Bryan Adams and when I grow up I want a still-good-looking-in-middle-age-vegan-rock-star-photographer of my own, that much is obvious. I think his rendition of "Empty Spaces/What shall we do now?" is the best version of that song ever performed and one of the high points of the performance in Berlin. I also think that lyric in "The Tide is Turning" is terrible and problematic, and very anti-climactic if compared to the rest of Adams' performance. It might all have been with the best intentions en within the spirit of the age, but the more I think about it the angrier I get about not being able to structurally eradicate problems like hunger and war on the planet. That said, Live Aid, Band Aid and USA for Africa (on the name alone a piece on the thin line between solidarity and colonialism could be written) were very effective in immediately alleviating a lot of suffering and raising money. So I am a cynic, but a happy one who has a lot of respect for what people tried back then even if I think we need to find a more structural way to combat global inequality and even if I totally agree with Depeche Mode's Alan Wilder's view on charity. Also, Geldof once slagged off The Wall in a cab driven by Roger Water's brother. It's a small world.
I have decided forgo analysing the extra song that is not on the original concept album but that is added to this performance (“The Tide is Turning” ),(1) because an entire book could be written on it within its socio-historical context. I would gladly analyse how it is somewhat problematic given the current state of affairs regarding the relationship between the East (or Asia) and the West (“…who owns the aces, the East or the West? This is the crap our children are learning, but oh, the tide is turning”).(2) And how the overly positive spirit surrounding the fall of the Berlin Wall and the naiveté of the early nineties make it nearly unwatchable for someone my age. The people who have been protesting walls and divisions within nations in my youth have been Banksy,(3) and Merlijn van Twaalfhoven,(4) who make a different kind of statement. I was barely conceived at the time of The Wall Live in Berlin, so I have trouble pinpointing how this must have worked for the original concert-goers swept up in a fever of times changing and borders opening up. They were probably less cynical than I am now. Much could also be said, in the context of this song and performance, about the Bob-Geldof-Roger-Waters-connection, with Live Aid organiser Geldof portraying protagonist Pink in the movie-version of the Wall,(5) with Waters having written “The Tide is Turning” for Live Aid (but Geldof turning it down),(6) and with the at best ambivalent relationship between the two.(7) If we see the song in the context of its kindred charitable efforts like “Do They Know It’s Christmas”,(8) and “We Are The World”,(9) there is also a point to be made about a troubling missionary/colonialist attitude towards Africa in the 90's, similar to the point Aydemir makes in his excellent discussion on staging colonialism in the Africa Museum in Tervuren.(10) But then it would need its own three-thousand words and I have neither those words nor the tools to analyse the song properly with regards to spectatorship at this time.
- DVD: Roger Waters, “The Tide is Turning” in The Wall (Live in Berlin), DVD, (1990; Universal Music, 2003).
- Book: Banksy, Wall and Piece, (London: Random House UK, 2007).
- Online lecture: Merlijn van Twaalfhoven, VIDEO: Merlijn Twaalfhoven on reconnecting art and life, online lecture (30-10-2014) http://www.tedxamsterdam.com/2009/12/video-merlijn-twaalfhoven-on-reconnecting-art-and-life/
- DVD: Alan Parker, Pink Floyd: The Wall (25th Anniversary Deluxe Edition), DVD, (Sony, 2005).
- Roger Waters, “The Tide is Turning” in The Wall (Live in Berlin).
- DVD: Julian Caidan, “Pink Floyd: Behind the Wall”, Pink Floyd: The Wall (25th Anniversary Deluxe Edition), DVD, (Sony, 2005).
- Online video clip: Bob Geldof and Midge Ure, Do They Know it’s Christmas ~ Band Aid 1984, online video clip (20-10-2014) http://youtu.be/bjQzJAKxTrE
- Online video clip: United Support of Artists for Africa, USA for Africa - We are the World, online video clip (20-10-2014) http://youtu.be/M9BNoNFKCBI
- Article: Murat Aydemir. Staging Colonialism: The Mise-En-Scène of the Africa Museum in Tervuren, Belgium.
November 15th, 2014
So things on the whole are going really well over here. I've been very busy with studying, also playing a bit of cello. I was too busy to go to yoga, let alone post stuff about food. But I have some stuff to post soon, even if it isn't all about food. And now that I finally have the time everyone in my family is ill. We are all combining a terrible cold with some, well, puking. I don't know why I just shared that, I only hope you are not not suffering from this flu yourselves.
This is not the saddest part of things happening, unfortunately. While I was making new friends and getting terribly good grades (I am proud!) and finding happiness in work, the cat started making this wheezing noise. We thought she was unable to cough up a hairball. Four days ago in the evening she stopped wheezing and looked really weird when she was breathing, laboured and gasping. The following morning she was still doing that so we took her to the vet. The courageous little animal was actually quite well-behaved, there wasn't even any scratching or rolling over to hiss. But the vet couldn't pinpoint what it was so she had to take a x-ray.
They then saw that her breast-bone was broken and that her lungs were surrounded by fluid. Even now it is unclear if this was because of an infection that had been there for years, separate from the broken thorax, or if it was because the thorax had punctured a lung and then fluid started collecting. A bacterial infection was almost certainly happening, either aggravated by her being kicked, or suddenly inexplicably worsening. The break could have been there for years and so could the infection. The only thing we know for sure is that the symptoms started two weeks ago and that she must have been kicked really hard in the face/chest at some point in her short life to cause the break, either recently or quite some time ago. It was a lot to take in and she had to go to a fancy cat-hospital to see if something could be done. She spent the night with us being very still on the couch, in the morning I petted her a bit to soothe her, but she didn't even protest when I lifted her to put her in the basket and she looked completely out of breath. Also her tongue was hanging out of her mouth with some slime, we thought she might die on the spot. She didn't but we did decide that euthanasia was the best after hearing how she would have to spend 3 weeks in hell with a big tube in her chest (she'd already protested against the small tube) to see if she was one of the 5 percent of kitties who live after being reanimated. Well, I have a do-not-resuscitate at the doctor's because I myself don't want to face better odds, let alone have my completely non-understanding cat face even bleaker ones while suffering. We made sure the other cat got to spend some time with the body and she is now very distraught, following me everywhere, and seems completely lost. She keeps smelling stuff that has Fatty's scent on it. It's not as quite as bad as the face of evil was after her brother died, but similar.
I am still somewhat troubled by the fact that my cat gets really expensive health care that we can barely afford. And that there's places on this earth where people don't get half of the care my cat gets and babies go unvaccinated or don't even have food. But I also figure that this should not mean that the cats that we've taken responsibility for should just go without and have their necks wrung when they seem to be getting as much as a sneezy cold. Within reason, they should get the care and the death I would hope other people would give me if I was not longer able to make that decision for myself. There's a document I made up with my family to agree to that for myself and I urge everyone to make one of those up! Anyway, I will miss the fluffy bundle of joy that used to waddle up to me and open her mouth as wide as possible and go "me-ieaw" in two distinct high pitched tones as though she was a demented frog. And I wish we could have given her more than the two extra years she got because we took her in. I am sure she was happy, she seemed incredibly content and sought out contact with us often. It has been a joy to watch that fat, eye-infected ratty monstrosity of a kitty (she really was more of a personality than a looker), turn into a healthy, only slightly tubby marvel of beauty with a well-taken-care-of coat! <3
November 7th, 2014
If there's plants, I will probably kill them. A friend asked me to plant-sit last year, and you can imagine my relief when it turned out he himself had already killed the rosemary (he just hadn't thrown it out yet). It got so bad I got a cactus. I have not killed it (yet), I am careful about not over-feeding it, but it has hurt me many many times already. It feels like the cactus and I have am honest relationship.
But there has been some progress with regards to my black thumb. It would be way too soon to call it the emergence of a green thumb, but the plant-casualty-rate this has been low this year. I pilfered part of the indestructible rosemary bush from downstairs (it will grow back), and so far it hasn't died on me. These pictures are from a month or two ago, and it's summer, so everything has been growing like mad since then. I also received some plants from friends, and the tomatoes did bear fruit, as can be seen in previous posts, so I am really happy. My balcony looks, there's no other word for it, lush.
What has helped immensely is my choices of plants this season. I won't say all of those were fortunate, I got a Japanese wineberry, and while it is delicious and I will post about it in the future, it has hurt me even more than the cactus has. There were also some plants with an unknown (and one with mistaken) identity. Point is, except for a few tomatoes specifically meant for growing in flowering pots, I just got tough, woody, difficult to kill plants. I also sprinkled random seeds over the rest of the empty pots and waited to see where that got me. It worked 50/50: endless bee-flowers and weed-like plants, but almost no violets. Turns out it is nearly impossible to kill things like mint (I have 3 kinds of mint!) and raspberry bush-like plants. I'm considering getting small trees. And if you thin seedlings out enough, they do want to survive, so I just try and give them a fighting chance. Before this year I was under the mistaken impression that all plants are, by nature, suicidal, at least when they're near me. So far, none of this has resulted in lots and lots of food (12 tomatoes, a berry or 17, and more mint then I know what to do with). But I also haven't killed any of the bushes yet. So that's progress.
My cats have (of course) taken a shine to the balcony. As long as you keep sure there's plants in the pot, they will not poop in them. They're very happy with the balcony because they can be outside no matter how bad the rain is. They usually come back in smelling of green and rain and earth and dust (or just dust when it's very hot and dry weather and they use the balcony for shade) and seem very happy. They sometimes leave paw prints in my room and in the bath. They even let me have breakfast with them on the balcony when they're in a good mood. No seriously, it's really nice to just sit with them on the balcony and enjoy the illusion that I am surrounded by green and nature and water and furry creatures and bees (which I am, but it's mainly cars and a gigantic polluting road on the other side of the water).
I will add a completely gratuitous cat-comic for your amusement. I was trying to take Betty's picture because she looked very regal when this happened. It is not supposed to happen and I need to find a solution because she's not allowed on the balcony railing. The upstairs neighbours' cat tried to walk on it, but then she jumped over and died. It was quite horrifying, and in this case I'd better be safe then sorry. But the comic does make for a nice look into inter-cat relationships in our household.
October 7th, 2014
One of the very first cookbooks I got (for Sinterklaas I believe) was the Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream & Desserts book. It is fun to read and it inspired a really delicious variation on the New York Chocolate Fudge Chunk years later, based on the date-chocolate ice cream base. We all thought it was way tastier than the store bought version, although my sister wasn't a fan of the chunks. And I don't want to sound like a complete health-nut, because the main point is that it tastes quite similar yet better and is free of cow-torture, but it is so much healthier it's not even funny anymore. It's also relatively easy to make if you have a blender and an ice cream maker or one of these, so no-one has an excuse to buy Ben & Jerry's ever again. They are not the ethical lovely hippy company the omnipresent ads want you to believe (case in point: omnipresent ads). The Ben & Jerry's book is not vegan at all (they insist on extra milk and egg in everything, even sorbets), and it's very very American, so I'd only buy it if you desperately want to recreate the Ben & Jerry's originals and are game for some serious recipe alterations. Google might help you out quicker though, without you having to veganize anything.
I also got two new ice cream books this summer. And one e-book about popsicles. So far, they have all been a hit. Especially Vegan Ice Cream Sandwiches, that one is amazing. I have to admit to tweaking the recipes quite a bit, using different sweeteners, and a lot less sugar in the cookies. I find the original terribly sweet, but that might be a personal thing. They are addictive though. The absolute favorite? Chai spiced ice cream (with or without sandwiches). I made the chai with some earl grey and classic yogi tea (it was the closest thing to chai we had around the house), and may have replaced the soy milk with coconut. I used Vegan Secret Supper's method of sweetening the ice cream with rice syrup and agave (and I added a bit of maple just because). They were so good that I ate 4 sandwiches in one day. And then I regretted it, but only a little bit. The next week we made the ice cream again for a BBQ, where it was a huge hit. I am still working on a neapolitan brownie sandwich, but we will get there.
Vegan Ice Cream is a delightful book, lots of different and varying recipes, three including durian. I have tried durian once, and I find it revolting, like garlic-poop-pineapple with a very persistent aftertaste and horrific smell. I never was one for smelly cheeses and the like, not before going vegan, not now. Don't get me started on pied de mouton. But the book is really nice. It has sauces, it has popsicles, different ice cream bases, some raw ice creams for those of you who care about that, and ice cream with hot pepper! <3
Oh, and I got a popsicle e-book called Purely Pops that's really nice. I didn't have a popsicle book yet, although Smitten Kitchen always has great ones, and it's not that difficult to pour ice cream bases into moulds, or to just use sweetened smoothies or juices. Nothing could be easier. I know it's a bit late, but if you have a hot autumn where you are (or your hemisphere is slowly starting spring or you are somewhere where there is no four seasons but there is warmth), I'd definitely recommend Vegan Ice Cream Sandwiches. And the popsicle book is affordable and has really nice cream bases so go for it if you want to make new, different, inventive popsicles.
The sandwiches pictured are the chai-spiced, a raspberry-lemon shortbred-combo, and tiramisu. The raspberry ice cream was bad. As you can see from the picture, the structure was very grainy, but that's because I used "instant" almond milk and did not use enough almond butter. To be on the safe side, I'd suggest using the regular method of almond milk: 1 cup almonds to 3 water. I sometimes use 2 cups water if I want really rich ice cream. It's really worth it for the taste. When you need some 1/4th cup of milk for a cookie recipe in a pinch, sure, use "instant". But don't when your nut-milk is the base of the entire recipe. I made the same stupid mistake with yoghurt once. It was horrible. Oh, and there was the tiramisu ice cream sandwich. That recipe needed some tweaking as well, the soaking of the top cookie didn't do the texture any favours (blechch), so I suggest adding some espresso powder or yannoh-powder to the tofu-based ice cream instead. That ice cream is delicious! I made it with almond milk instead of hemp, and it worked really well. And do dust the cookies with the cocoa-powder, that gives them a really lovely taste and makes it surprisingly tiramisu-y. Now all you need is a tiny glass of liqueur to go with it.
I should probably mention that my mum has The Vegan Scoop and it's not a big hit. I am not a huge soy milk fan. It could also be because I prefer the Italian gelato to the American "ice cream" (according to a few of the ice cream books, there is a distinct difference). The Ciao Bella Gelato & Sorbeto book is also non-vegan, but very easily veganized with a rudimentary understanding of ice cream bases. And the sorbeto part is already vegan of course. Hanna Kaminsky recommended it years ago, that's how I found it, so you can read her review. I completely agree, although be warned that chocolate sorbet is so intensely chocolate-y that you may make a face. I did. It was one of those things where you don't know if you absolutely love it, or that you find it too overwhelming to enjoy. Their granita-recipes and tips on flavour-combinations are great as well.
September 29th, 2014
First, I'll give you a recipe. Then I'll give you some tips. We got the Zoku Shake-maker thing. We already had the popsicle maker, and we like that one a lot! The shake-maker is also rather nifty. I wouldn't call what it makes granita or shake, it is more of an awkward ice cream, but it is really delicious. It's not the Magimix Turbine à Glace, but it is better than the motorized 350 euro costing one we had before the Turbine, but that we had to return because it was so loud we heard it when we put it out on the balcony. So that's not bad for a 15 euro gizmo that works without electricity. Although a friend recently informed me the price has gone up to 25 euros :(. So far, it has handled every ice cream batter we've throw at it admirably, but my favorite recipe is rather straightforward.
Get a cup. Fill it 2/3 with fruit (I used frozen cherries and strawberries), add a splash of agave nectar and a tablespoon of almond butter. Add water until the fruit is covered. Add a handful of mint if desired, and sweeten with stevia to taste. Blend this all up, and add to the Zoku together with either a handful of chocolate chips, or some nuts, or cookie crumbs, or toasted coconut flakes. Do the stirring thing. Then put on a movie and enjoy. You can make this as healthy as you'd like. The texture improves remarkably with the added agave, but you can sweeten it the rest of the way with stevia if you'd like. I have done this with my morning smoothie, but I'd rather use the sweeter one. The texture is really depressing when you use unsweetened smoothie with chia seeds and kale...
Now for a movie-tip: if you like the 80's, intercultural relationships, skinheads seeing the error of their ways and embracing old "friendships", a young Daniel Day Lewis (& an equally gorgeous Gordon Warnecke), sex involving bubbly wine, tight jeans and squatters (I happen to have a soft spot for every one of those), you should watch "My Beautiful Launderette". I think my dad recommended it a few years ago. I won't say it's a fun movie, it is a bit strange with a fuckload of dark shit happening in the not-so-fortunate parts of society during Thatcher (or: dôh). But I repeat, Daniel Day Lewis, young! With champagne! If you then need a bit of a laugh, because you are both deeply saddened and hugely excited from watching Laundrette, you should read "Al Dente" by David Winner. It's so inexpensive it's almost free, but it's also really interesting. Who knew the Ancient Romans were the first designer-water drinkers? It might have not been bottled, but it was branded and hyped up. For real!
Everything is going really well here! I've started the pre-master, and realised I should have started this study years ago because it's both challenging and fun. Shame on you, unobservant teachers at arts college that said theatre science really wouldn't be for me and that I should never try because I'd be miserable and uninterested in it, shame on you. Because it turns out that other people have already thought very hard about the things I have also thought very hard about, and our conclusions are similar. Theirs are just formed by much more experience and, to use the technical challenge, science-y knowledge, but I can get there if I work hard! Also, all of the lecturers are incredible examples of awesome, and together with Batman, Yoko Ono, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Song A Day Man who made a feminist auto-tune, Emma Watson and Naomi Wolf (actually there are more, both male and female, and my mum and dad, but then the list would be endless), at least two of them are my new feminist heroes! I also went to a few really good concerts and plays, and there's lots more to come. It might go quiet in a few weeks, but I promise I am trying to keep up! Because there are already undiscussed shoes, new kinds of feminist outrage, horribly sexist but still super fun movies and yet more nail polish (along with some tips on how you can make it last for-e-ver) to write about!
September 24th, 2014
Remember I told you about the friend who got me Daiya? I may have used it in everything. It turns out I am not a fan of the cheddar slices. It tastes too processed, a lot like those completely processed slices individually wrapped in plastic that you can get at the supermarket and that I never liked before I went vegan. But the mozzarella is a lot milder and I don't think people really notice the difference between this and what's on regular frozen pizzas. Anyway, it is really good so I put it on everything. I put it on a hummus-pesto-hybrid made from fresh green peas, pine nuts and mint. It was really good.
A little bit of sriracha gave it more of a kick, which I like. I am the only one in our household who likes the kick, so the sriracha and hot sauce lasts forever. The look of melty Daiya is different to melty dairy-cheese. This could be because I don't heat it high enough. I just find that it never really loses the shape of the shreds, even though it is melty and stretchy. But I know that you of the American blogosphere have heard more, more than enough about Daiya. You, for some incomprehensible reason, find Cheezly irresistible and exotic and marvelous.
Having had a chance to try Teese, Sheese, aforementioned Cheezly, Tofutti, Violife, Wilmersburger and Daiya, and some tofu-feta-goat-cheese thing from a Berlin health food store that was so good I had three blocks of it in 5 days, I can say that some of those have their use. I recommend you completely ignore the first three. They've ruined otherwise perfectly cheeselessly delicious meals for me. Tofutti slices are doable, but their cream cheese is perfect, exactly that same fatty, little bit bland, rich weird creamy thing that is regular cream cheese, with not a hint of soybean. Violife is quite similar to what you can get in Dutch supermarkets pre-sliced in packets, and the same goes for Wilmersburger. Quite nice, not a very outspoken taste, not melty, but good on a slice of bread, tastes exactly as much of plastic and nothing as supermarket cheese made from dairy does. I quite liked the Violife one with herbs, because that did have a taste that reminded me faintly of a nettle-cheese I at some point had a pregan obsession with. There was green bits in there, eating it was a nostalgic experience. Daiya is the only one of these that melts even somewhat realistically and the mozzarella (though it taste more like "all purpose cheese" to me, especially compared to the home made stuff) is good with almost anything. When I get back to Berlin, I will try and find the feta-chèvre-tofu again and then I'll let you know. Because it's the healthiest of these by far and it was super tasty, mainly because it didn't try too hard to be dairy cheese. I will also be taking ridiculous amounts of it back to the Netherlands with me if I ever find it again.
Right, my initial point of this post was that chili is really tasty with a handful of Daiya, and I made a discovery: they have smoked paprika powder at a store just a short bike ride away. If you're visiting the Netherlands and see a Dille & Kamille (translation: Dill & Chamomile) you should check it out, I sometimes just go there to be surrounded by pretty cookery-items. I had been looking for smoked paprika for the longest time and there it suddenly was, next to the cash register. It is the best thing ever to have happened to both chili and BBQ. And sauces. And tomato soups. And salads that need a bit of heat or smoke. And tofu rubs. I've found the sweet variety there as well, so now I put it in almost everything. It's like a really low-budget version of liquid smoke.
As you can see, my mum's cooking course is really paying off. The structure of her breads has improved drastically. I am learning from a distance, and have now learned to make the best pasta I've had in my life so far. Penne all' arrabbiata is something new, but it's a kind of spicy even my family enjoys on occasion. And you can make it as spicy and with as much vegetables as you want. It takes a maximum of 20 minutes? 30 if I am very precise and finicky about it. So you should try it. I used a Jamie Oliver recipe (without dead anchovies of course), because his method of cooking is roughly similar to that of the course. You cook your pasta until just south of al dente (for me, with spaghetti that's probably 5 minutes, 6 with a bigger pasta) and then cook it the rest of the way with a cup of cooking water added to the sauce (takes me 3 minutes usually). It makes for a really nice bite and a sauce that actually sticks to your pasta without clumping or the need for olive oil to prevent said clumping. Nigella Lawson uses the same method. It's so simple and so much better that I don't know why we didn't start cooking pasta like this years ago!
September 16th, 2014
Bananas were apparently in the air. Because Hipsterfood, the tumblr by the people behind the previously mentioned and raved about Chickpea Magazine, had some great and specific tips on banana soft-serve that would complement my suggestions for the ice cream. So you should definitely check that out.
I am currently taking care of the fat cat. Some of her teeth had to be taken out because she was super-smelly and it looked bad. The doctor said we weren't too late, no irreversible damage. Four teeth were pulled because they were mushy. I always thought stuff like that was nonsense, it's a cat, it needs neither dentist nor pedicure. But it got so smelly that when she yawned you wanted to leave the room, and it made her coat stink. I can't for the life of me get her the take the antibiotics. It is impossible to put a pill inside of the cat without her coughing it back up. It usually means that we both hate each other for a few days and I have to heal from scratches and she from psychological trauma. Luckily I was able to give her the liquid painkiller and we put something in her water that should also help, and I checked the temperature of her jaw and she is still fine and almost back to her old self. She's still a bit queasy sometimes. But she smells fine now, no longer like death and fish, but clean and fluffy, just like the other cat.
I also built the cats some stairs, because they kept thundering down the wall and land with a thud on the concrete and that looked really painful! They learned how to use it after some "encouragement" (of me pushing them up the little stairs), and have been doing so since the third day after stair-construction. We have nosey neighbors, they stare at us and the things happening in the neighborhood disapprovingly either from behind the curtain of from the second floor the entire fucking day (please shoot me if I ever become that kind or sour, depressed pensionado), it is well and truly unpleasant. But the cats have taken to sitting on the top of the stairs and staring back. This feels like a happy form of poetic justice, one that just happens without any effort and is actually kind of adorable.
September 9th, 2014
I often wonder if I antropomorphise my cats too much. I guess it won't hurt them if I think of them as tiny furry humans, hell, they probably think of me as a huge relatively clumsy cat. At least that's what the book suggests. But I also talk to them an awful lot and I feel like they respond (they are quite vocal in their responding mews and those for attention), and it's a bit like how I used to talk to my teddy bear all the time, but as though he's more stubborn and preoccupied with trying to take the ergonomic desk-chair from me because it is the best place for sleep (and work).
What finally convinced me that we (even though they are cats and I am human and we have to respect each others differences) are quite similar creatures, is Captain James Tiberius Kirk (the original). I am more a TNG and Voyager fan (with a huge Garak-weakness), and you can wake me up for Commander Tucker any time of night. I am not so much a fan of TOS because it is difficult not to laugh or fall asleep because of the very lengthy pauses and stage-like over-acting common in the 60's. But then there's Kirk (and Nichelle Nichols, but let's save descriptions of her brilliance for a future post). Don't get me wrong, it is completely logical that Spock became the sex symbol. But I react to Kirk the way my cats react to butterflies. Whatever I'm doing, if there is Kirk, I will become pre-occupied, somewhat nervous and unusually giggly (they sort of hiccup/bark at birds and flying creatures, not giggle). And then I will stare at it transfixed. I can't say that I start batting at the computer screen, but I cover my mouth with my hands every now and again in excitement. And then they stare at me like I stare at them when they are catching butterflies. Although they're mostly annoyed that I dare use their bed for such mundane activities as watching TV or movies, reading books or, god forbid, sleeping. It is no longer their bed, but that's only because the three of us have developed a communal sleeping pattern.
To go with the Kirk and aloof cats, you should probably make banana-sorbet. There's so many recipes on the internet that you hardly need my extra input, but I should say that I usually add some extra maple syrup to the sour cherries, and have added chocolate chips on occasion. It was really good. It's not "just like ice cream, yum" (Kristina really gets on my nerves), but it is very fast and an excellent snack on those nights when you just want to watch movies and be emotional about it. There will be different ice cream snacks soon, it has been a hot summer, but this one will do in a pinch! Also, huge coconut flakes are my new favorite thing. I bought them to try out coconut bacon, but I haven't gotten around to it yet because they are so tasty when you toast them and put them in the ice cream. Oh, and always add vanilla. It makes the sorbets go from "quite good and fruity" to "what is this ambrosia (sort of)".
I'll leave you with something only mildly Star Trek related: Shatner does Common People. Thank you, popular culture, for making this possible. Maybe next time we will discuss the ins and outs of Cardassian politics, or the Pulp biography I'm reading. I think we can safely say that both my friends and parents are happy that I have you, unknown audience, to share all of this with, because none of them seem to share my fascination with Star Trek, sci-fi in general, or the way women are portrayed vs. men in Pulp songs.
September 4th, 2014
Today I will be discussing two cookbooks that actually fell prey to their blog's brilliance (and one that didn't). Let me start with one of the first vegan books I bought, because it was one of the first vegan blogs I ever stumbled upon (just googling "vegan blog"): Vegan Yum Yum. I actually (unsuccessfully, alas) tried to seduce someone with her recipe for cinnamon buns once. The buns can't be faulted for my bad choices. And don't get me wrong, Lolo's cookbook is great, inventive recipes, lots of them, lovely pictures, very comprehensive. A pocket-version without the helpful general directions and background info of Veganomicon. She also taught me a lot of food photography tips and tricks, so you can partially blame her for my relentlessly keeping up the iphone snapshots against a painfully blue deck table and/or chair. But the cookbook also has lots of schmancy picknick and sandwich and dinner-party stuff and really nice pancakes. A nice combination of staples and food for a special occasion. Only point is that her blog probably has even more, even better recipes! The cinnabons are on the blog, not in the book, so there you go. And that's where we come to Decadent Gluten-Free Vegan Baking.
The cinnamon rolls are in the book this time. They're gluten-free yeast-free cinnamon buns, does it get much better than that? Ok, I haven't had time to bake them yet, but Cara's track record is excellent, so I don't doubt for a second that this recipe will be a resounding success. Anyway, the cookbook is nice and has more tips on replacing gluten and eggs then The Complete Guide To Vegan Food Substitutions did. But then her blog Fork and Beans has those tips as well. And the book is just desserts, her blog has everything. And I am more of a savory person. I will bake until I'm blue in the face, but in the end potato chips are my weakness, not vanilla cake with frosting. I will gladly leave all of the cakes and frostings alone for just one fatty salty crispy crunchy nibble. In short, even though I think it's really nice to support Cara, I also feel the book is overshadowed by the amazing stuff she makes on her blog.
The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook is on the other end of the spectrum. And looking at Deb's blog, you might not guess there's much more to cook and bake and write about. But there is! And the cookbook has some really nice overviews, tips for what to serve when and store how, all of those things. How she ended up with a recipe, why it works, what makes it worth making. The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook gave me some never before seen original (egg- dairy- and dead-animal-heavy) recipes that just keep working for me no matter how I veganize them. Even more so than her blog. There are some vegetarian recipes, Deb was a vegetarian at some point. And even though I might be morally opposed to the killing of defenseless chicken, I will wholeheartedly recommend this book to you (along with the page on the Smitten Kitchen blog with everything labeled vegan). There's quite a few recipes in the book and on the blog that just don't particularly appeal to me, but Deb is brilliant when it comes to flavor combo's, presentation, party planning and ideas for dates (as if I ever have dates, hah). Deb announced a new book recently, and I'll surely get that when it comes out. I can only hope there's a vegetarian (or perhaps vegan?) chapter in her second book as well, and I will happily keep marinating seitan and tofu in place of the dead flesh!
So in conclusion: all three of the books probably add something to the information on the blogs that they sprung from, but in different amounts. If you're looking for a good starting point to vegan food in general, Vegan Yum Yum is an nice place to start. If you are a lover of food and stories about Deb's husband's Russian family, and don't mind some veganizing, I would go for that one because it is the best one out of the three. But if you have a kid that's gluten-intolerant I'd know what I'd buy if I ever needed to give treats to their class or something. And then I'd probably bake those cinnamon buns.
On a helpful gluten-free sidenote: millet flour has a very distinctive taste, and I think I might avoid it from now on. It's not that I am against said taste in every situation, it's just that I am not fond of it in my baked goods. It was something my mum and I discovered (with an awkward giggle) at about the same time we bit into a millet-flour-based bagel. And then I had to think about Mitchell & Webb.
August 26th, 2014